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Archive for Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Storms ease dry conditions

Parts of Kansas, Missouri benefit from recent rainfall

May 13, 2003

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— The recent storms that brought tornadoes to the Midwest also dropped heavy rains that lessened the impact of drought conditions in much of Kansas and Missouri.

Some areas of Missouri received more than 6 inches of rain, and parts of Kansas took in about 2 inches from storm systems in the past week.

Pat Guinan, a climatologist at the University of Missouri, said the recent rains ended drought conditions in north-central, northeast, west-central and southwest Missouri.

Enough rain fell in some areas, Guinan said, that some farmers told him they were hoping the rains would stop so they could continue planting in their fields.

Still, the effects of the rains are limited.

Guinan said the rains helped the topsoil immensely, but more rains were needed to soak the subsoil levels. Water sources such as livestock ponds also need more rain to reach normal levels.

Mary Knapp, a climatologist at Kansas State University, said rains had left a similar situation in Kansas: healthy topsoil and parched subsoil.

"You can get a crop germinated, but you don't have anything to sustain development," Knapp said.

Knapp said eastern Kansas had been receiving rainfall every three to five days, an ideal pattern to combat the drought.

She said precipitation had been above average this year in every part of the state except the southwest. Some improvement has occurred in reservoirs and streams, which have returned to near-normal levels.

Hank Ernst of the Kansas Water Office said the rains also helped reservoirs in eastern Kansas, with the most significant increases in Tuttle Creek and Perry Lake. Water levels were up about 3 feet at Tuttle Creek and are now 2 feet above normal. Perry Lake increased about a foot last week and is 3 feet below normal.

Although many areas have improved, parts of southwest Kansas and northwest Missouri are still thirsty for rain.

Knapp said southwestern Kansas averaged only a quarter-inch of rain last week. Other areas of the state received close to 2 inches of rain.

To complicate matters, Knapp said strong winds dried up what moisture southwestern areas received.

The Palmer Drought Severity Index reflects the changes across Kansas.

Preliminary ratings for northern and central Kansas all improved last week, but ratings across the southern border deteriorated.

The Palmer index also confirms the drought problems in northwest Missouri, but the area has shown improvement.

On April 19, Northwest Missouri had a rating of minus 3.94, just short of the measurement for an extreme drought. In the past three weeks, the number has jumped to minus 2.56, in the range of a moderate drought.

"They're starting to see some relief, but they're going to need a lot more," said Douglas LeComte, a senior meteorologist at the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center in Camp Springs, Md.

LeComte said the recent rain patterns were expected to continue for the next two weeks. A wet system later this week could drop another inch of rain on some areas with more to come next week, he said.

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